They obeyed a house of cards. From it came their orders, their worries, and all of their concerns. This is what needs to be decided. These are the questions and these are the answers! Everyone knew it was a house of cards. They even made jokes about it. But no one looked elsewhere. No one dared. They thought it was the only place that could affect change. The only place that could help them, fight for them. What would they do without the decrees coming down from the king of hearts and the queen of doom. How would they know what to do?
One day a card fell. It was pushed by the wind, or more specifically, a breeze, the kind that is too light to be expected, but pushes one thing into your field of vision and stops you in your tracks. It took out a lesser card, a small two, but it shook the whole house and the upper cards went next. The whole monstrosity caved in an instant, toppling with the force of a world crumbling. And then no one could look anywhere but at the wind. It was just getting started.
It took out other things too. Every. Thing.
The mountains fell. The stars fell from the sky. Two things remained.
His oldest daughter was the Wisest. She understood her father, why he did what he did, though she was too young to see all of it. She knew he did it to prove something. To be something. To win.
The Smallest was hurt. She didn't understand. Instead, she was swept away by each ebb and flow of the tide. She was away so much she was not sure anywhere else existed, though she hoped it did. She was the one who would grow up to be just like him, seeking the same affirmation, in the same ways.
His Closest pulled her words and her story out of the air and held them too close to see, so there is nothing to tell. She doesn't breath, doesn't hope, doesn't dream. She allows no mention of it, how she felt, how she feels. She leaves no footprint, no breath, because to do so would make his actions real and she does not want that.
They sat waiting for the pot to boil. It was a rare night that he was home with them. Maybe the only night. No one knew then that was the day the wall would come down. No one knew it would come down at all. So when his friend arrived and invited him out, they knew nothing different than all the days before when he left them.
His friend had a job to do and needed help.
They walked the whole way. It was dark. He was afraid. His friend's job was to confront someone, get information from them, and kill them. He was afraid of his friend, the target, and the information. It couldn't implicate him, but it was frightening for a reason he couldn't articulate.
The conversation between the three men went like this:
Friend: You refused?
The Target: I couldn't do it. Things have changed. I have changed. I'm out.
He: You can't be out. No one gets out.
The Target: I am out.
The Target: They didn't tell you? I am a changed man. I am different.
His eyes were serene. Solemn. Resigned. He would not bend. He would not break. They could see it plainly. This was no longer the same cohort they had worked with, no longer the man who they had come to respect, no longer the man who had ordered others killed like they were about to kill him.
Friend laughed. They had told them. Now this man believed in God. Now he would not work with them. He was on his own. He was different.
Friend: You're a traitor.
He hated the Target now. How could he turn away from them? After all they'd worked for. After all they'd achieved. He would just give up now? They did not believe him about God. Who believes that? They assumed he was an ordinary traitor, one with his own reasons. It was no concern of theirs what he said now.
Friend: Do you know we will kill you?
Friend didn't really want to do it. They'd been through a lot with this man. He was their colleague. Their comrade. He had helped each of them. He'd sacrificed for them. He had given to them. And he was different now. But they didn't know why.
The Target pulled a weapon from his right side coat pocket and shocked them both when he placed it on a table instead of firing.
The Target: I won't kill you. And I want you to know I forgive you. Both of you. I forgive you and when I am dead I will pray for you at the foot of the throne.
His words were incomprehensible to them. He sounded like a madman and they killed him.
Friend: Do you think he really forgave us?
He was taken aback. It was a stupid question, one he didn't know how to answer.
He and Friend parted ways then, each heading for home. He wondered how his family was, something he didn't normally allow himself to do. And as he walked his steps drew him closer to the wall. Tall, impenetrable, protective. Something was happening on that night, however. People were gathered around. He stopped to observe the commotion. There was shouting and singing. Pieces of the great facade were being tossed, thrown to the ground. They were tearing it down!
He was caught up in it, watching but not helping. He was done helping. He thought about all he had done. He thought about forgiveness. He'd just killed someone. Someone who said he forgave him. It was unsettling. And now the wall was coming down. He hoped it meant something. He hoped he was forgiven. He stared, unblinking, and as he watched, he saw the shadow moved. It was jolted out of place, obstructed, directed, pulled. He saw that something reached out to the shadow and pulled it away and, as he watched, he hoped it would do the same for him.
He was swept free. He was brought out of deception. And he could see. With his eyes. With his heart. With all he could hold.
As he watched the wall come down and the shadow move and remembered his friend's, his victim's, words, "I forgive you," he wished, he hoped, he prayed and cried out and couldn't believe he got a reply. His burden, lifted and thrown, his darkness gone in the grip of a light that caught it and held it and brought it down.
He was free.
But he had ordered someone killed. He was not directly responsible, he reasoned, which gave him space between himself and the guilt. But he'd done it just the same. He'd watched a murder and had not intervened. In fact, he'd approved it.
In his life were many sins. He had abandoned someone who needed him. He had hurt someone who loved him. He regretted it. How could he be freed from that? But he was and he found it difficult to take. Not that he wasn't grateful. He was overwhelmed with gratitude, tears streaking his face, his heart, everything he could hold. He was paralyzed with it. He moved only by the force that held him up and led him. He was no longer his own.
He stood motionless in the center of his small town with the wall now down around them and the inhabitants strolling harmlessly around. They kept walking, not pausing, not stopping to say hello, everyone just going by with no destination other than "I can go here now" with no restriction. He began to stroll too, for hours or minutes he couldn't tell, and finally went home to tell his family they were free.
But they weren't. His family was still imprisoned by him. The wall was down. The shadow was gone. The weight had lifted. But his Closest remembered his cruelty. His Smallest remembered his absence. His Wisest knew. She just knew. He was free of his guilt, but they were still under it, pinned to the floor by unforgiveness and resentment and the truth. It was true. He had done it all.
So he set out to change the truth. He hoped. He promised. But he failed, horribly, spectacularly. He was a changed man, broken, serene, a man who had been unable to rescue himself and now he needed help to clean up the mess. He needed a rescuer. They needed a rescuer, to be saved from all he had done to them.
The darkness met him, cold and sharp, and promised him power, but he no longer wanted it. He wanted sunlight. He yearned for hope. His heart, his hands, everything he could hold with wanted only to hold purity.
It was a new feeling for a man who had spent his entire life on temporary pleasures, always looking in the same place for something different and finding the same over and over again. He feared he was a slow learner, but he was meant to learn this lesson well so that he would remember it with his heart, his hands, everything he could hold.
His mind changed when the wall fell. It pulled the darkness with it. He saw the shadow tugged by the weight of the collapse. What can grasp a shadow and pull it down? He thought he must have seen an illusion. The wall must have hit something real and moved it, of course, and that altered the shadow. Of course? But he was slowly losing belief in the course of things and gradually accepting that he had seen a shadow moved. A shadow that was not a reflection, not cast by light, not a mere effect of something real- this shadow was its own entity. He had seen evil moved and he knew it.
"You don't need to be afraid of the dark anymore."
He would not admit to being a fearful man. Maybe, once, or twice, he had felt fear as a small child or in a strange circumstance, but never as a man, never unless he was half asleep or- but it was futile. He was afraid. Fear led him. Fear drew him. Fear called his name. Fear ate his meals before him and arranged his home to suit its needs.
Fear had been the boss for so long he did not recall another time, until that moment, and he realized, instinctively, then with logic, that there was something that could move differently than everything else. Something could rescue him. He winced at the thought because the last thing this strong man wanted was to need rescue. Then it happened.